"It was fun. The finals are competitive. All-Star game is fun. Period," Lyons said. "David's focus was always, 'How long are the lines at the receptions? Were the parties good? If we're going to do this, we're going to do it right.' All that kind of Sternesque focus."
That allowed Stern to try things that sometimes assured the game wouldn't be good. The league took the 2007 event to Las Vegas, and the basketball was a bomb after three days of parties and events. The 2010 game went to Dallas Cowboys Stadium, where the massive size of the structure behind the baskets had players worrying about their shooting. (No problem, it was a thrilling game before a record crowd of more than 108,000).
The "weekend" now starts Thursday with the opening of Jam Session, featuring shops, interactive exhibits and more at a convention center. Friday morning is the tech summit, added before the 1998 game in Oakland, Calif. as a way to attract business and technology leaders from the Silicon Valley, and which now has become popular among owners and executives.
This year's event was to be seen live in 215 countries and territories in 47 languages through various media.
"I think probably the most drastic change that I've seen and I've experienced, as a kid growing up overseas, you couldn't watch the game live. You know what I mean?" 15-time All-Star Kobe Bryant said. "It was on delay, would come on the next day, it wouldn't be a big publicized thing, you'd have to kind of search it out. Until now, it's televised live across how many countries? That speaks to his influence, that speaks to his business savvy."
Silver will have work to do. The dunk contest has been diminished, names like Jordan and Wilkins replaced by lesser players. The search for host cities with enough hotel and entertainment space for staff, media, sponsors and fans has grown more difficult.
And those are the things that turned a game into an event.
"Event planning, (butt)-kicking parties and fun, good hotels, all those little things that people judge a weekend by, David was on it," Lyons said.
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